The Unruly Apparatus

by Miguel Rózpide

Between Sculpture and Photography

The Appamtus proposes an exploration of the different exchanges that are taking place today between contemporary photography and sculpture. As such it can be understood as an attempt to show how concepts and working methods that are normally linked with one medium, can be shared and transferred into another.

A photograph can be simply an act of documenting a sculptural intervention as in the Melevzcolia-series of Bernard Volta and a sculpture can take its clues from the photographic culture that surrounds us on a daily basis Bernadette Zdrazil Although we are culturally trained to understand photographs as a transparent medium through which we gain an immediate access to the world depicted, photographs have always been objects, as the two works of Thomas Ruff (from the series negatives and press++) make abundantly clear.

The works of Ruff point to one way of conceiving a photograph as a material object. Several other works in this exhibition manifest the different strategies one could employ to stress the materiality of the photographic image and therefore open up the photograph itself to sculptural appropriation. One could incorporate it in an installation (Aglaia Konrad, Fabien Silvestre or one could focus on the chemical layer of the printed image, a thin material veil spread over the photographic paper, necessary to unveil and fix what the camera had captured. Some works investigate the frailty of this chemical layer (Kaat Somers, Azuli Peeters while others aim for its utter destruction as in the fried images by Alix Manon). A similar attention towards the material composition of sculptural objects can also be used to create an object where the chemical reactions between two materials generate a surface that remains seemingly in flux Ine Kools).

Although quite distinct art practices, photography and sculpture do have something in common. Both rely on complex technological procedures: sculpture as the art of casting matter, photography as the art of casting light. And since the breakthrough of advanced digital tools, both practices are becoming even more similar. While the photographic camera was the first tool that operated as a black box, the introduction of 3D scans, CNC milling machines and 3D printers in the workshop of the sculptor, led to a growing dependency on instruments that work in a similar vein. These instruments are more than dumb, passive tools, but procedures operating according to their own logic. In conjunction with the artist who activates them they perform together the work.

Several works in the exhibition address the conditions and consequences of the performative aspect embedded in this collaboration with automatically operating apparatuses (Walead Beshty, Wade Guyton, Bram Rinkel, Spiros Seth Price and Elias Asselbergh). Another element that links these sculptural objects with photography is that the production of these sculptures is always mediated by technologically generated images. In other words: many of the aforementioned sculptures are nothing more than the materialization of photographical images. They are photographic objects.

Photography is not only the art of light sensitive chemistry, but also the optical art of framing and exposure. One example of how these optical effects of photography can 'be manipulated in order to create photographic objects, can be seen in the 3D images of Thomas Ruff and Miguel Cipriano. But sculptors can also make use of photographic elements or distinct photographic effects. The work of Anton Cotteleer builds upon the visual effect of zooming and enlarging photographic images and the consequential loss of detail, while an optical play with light and colorful reflections return in the work of Alix Manon and Filip Vervaet. And finally, since every photograph is the result of outside forces bombarding a light sensitive surface, why would a sculpture that is being created while it is being shot at not also be called a photographic object (Athar Jaber)?

Curated by
Steven Humblet
Anton Cotteleer
Geert Goiris